9 Top Tips To Help Your Breastfed Baby Sleep

Breastfed babies don’t sleep…. or at least this is what we are led to believe.  

Although it may be a little while before your newborn baby allows you to have a full night of interrupted sleep, there are plenty of ways in which you can encourage your breastfed baby to have more of their quota of sleep in the night than in the day. Read on hear all about the gentle ways in which you can encourage your breastfed baby to sleep for longer periods at night, meaning that you can get longer stretches of shuteye too.

Read on or watch the video below for all the details.

1. Routine In The Day

Routine is something of a controversial topic when it comes to breastfed babies. While some parents view routine as harsh, believing that breastfeeding should be totally baby led, others will agree that babies love routine and thrive on it.

I personally believe but adding an element of structure to your days even when your baby is very small will make things easier for both you and your little one. Besides, when you have a second, third or forth or more baby, you will naturally have an element of routine imposed upon you and your baby in the form of the older sibling’s needs and schedule, so embracing routine can really help.

As I discussed in my routine to help your baby sleep post, I have found with my babies that if their daytime feeds and naps structured correctly for appropriately for their age, and stage of development, they naturally sleep more at night.

2. A Winding Down Bedtime Routine

I think that most parents will agree that a winding down bedtime routine is beneficial to get little ones of all ages ready for sleep. In early evening it is a good idea to avoid overstimulating your baby and to start winding down with quiet activities such as stories, gentle songs and cuddles.

Bath time can be a nice opportunity to relax your baby (at least until your baby turns into a toddler that realises that bath time is an excellent opportunity for more excitement). Following your baby’s bath, you could try some baby massage, followed by their bedtime milk in their bedroom with dim lighting. All of these will act sleep cues to tell your baby that bedtime is approaching.

3. Total Darkness

As I discussed in my Avoid Insomnia & Get More Sleep post, babies and adults alike are far more likely to get off to sleep easy and sleep well into darkness. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating our body clocks, or “circadian rhythm”. The hormone is produced in the brain’s pineal gland due to lack of exposure to light. If your baby’s room is too light, there is not enough melatonin produced to help them fall asleep and stay asleep easily.

When your baby comes into the lighter part of their sleep cycle in the early hours of the morning, any light creeping into their room will act as a signal the it’s time to get up, so ensuring total darkness will mean that they will be more likely to sleep for longer in the morning too.

A blackout blind can be some of the best money that you have ever spent. You can purchase roller blinds and couple them with curtains to banish all light from the room. Another option would be the Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind which sticks to the window. If you want a super cheap option that you almost certainly have indoor house right now, stick tinfoil directly to the glass of the window with water. It sticks perfectly and blocks out all light.

Check out my Nursery Essentials post for more top tips for your baby’s bedroom.

4. Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

Much like Goldilocks’s porridge, the temperature in your baby’s room should not be too hot, or too cold but just right. We use a Gro egg, which is a handy device that gives you are accurate reading the temperature in your babies room at a glance. The egg glows yellow when the room is that the optimal temperature is between 16 and 20°C. It grows glows orange in the warmer 21 to 24°C and close a warning red when the temperature exceeds 24°C. If the temperature falls below 16°C the egg glows blue to warn you that the room is too cold.

By ensuring that your baby is dressed appropriately for the temperature in their bedroom, not only will you protect them from the risk of SIDS, but you’re making sure they’re comfortable enough to sleep well too.

5. Drowsy But Awake

Now this one can be tricky. The best way to put a baby to bed ready to sleep is “drowsy but awake”. The reason for this being that if your baby falls asleep in your arms, waking during the night realising that they are no longer in your arms causes panic. It’s like the way you would feel if you went to sleep cosy in your bed and woke up in the garden, you would certainly be unsettled, wouldn’t uoi?

Putting your baby don’t drowsy but awake, they’re aware of their surroundings and far less likely to get upset when they wake in the night. This means that (although it is not guaranteed) they are slightly more likely to fall back to sleep rather than screaming when you really would like to be sleeping yourself.

The difficulty with this is that for tiny babies especially, breast milk is like sleepy juice. Falling asleep on the boob is something that newborn breastfed babies naturally do a lot of. One solution can be to feed them in an almost darkened room with a small night light to keep them awake enough to feed, then turn off the light when it is time to sleep properly.

Bonus tip – don’t put your baby into their sleeping bag ready for bedtime after they have finished feeding. This way, if they doze off on the boob, gently putting them into the sleeping bag can be enough to wake them into this drowsy but awake state.

6. Meal Or A Snack?

If your baby is still very young and of an age where it is essential for them to have a night feed,  ensure that this night feed is a proper meal and not a snack.

As I explained in my doing this one thing will help your baby sleep more post, if your baby is only getting few mouthfuls of milk before drifting back off to the land of Nod, they’re obviously going to be hungry again sooner than you might like. Head over to the post full details and recommendations for ensuring that your baby gets a full feed and is full enough to maximise your chances of a few hours of rest.

7. Is Your Baby Really Hungry?

I know when I had my first son, everytime you see much of my bed I fed him. It’s important to realise not every cry is hungry. Sometimes babies cry because they nappy is dirty, they are too warm, too cold, thirsty as opposed to hungry, or some other reason. If your baby has had a full feed within the last three or four hours, it is worth exploring other reasons for why they might be upset.

As my breastfed babies reached around six months and were having previously boiled water to accompany the meals during the day, I would also take a beaker of previously boiled water up to bed to leave in their room each night. If they woke I would always offer them a sip of water before feeding them. Sometimes this would be enough and then go straight back to sleep. If they continued to be upset even after a few sips of water I would then feed them. I’m not advocating that you don’t feed the hungry baby, but merely suggesting that it is worth checking whether hunger really is the cause of the waking at night.

8. Settling In Stages Method

If you have been feeding your baby sleep or perhaps co sleeping with them and would like to move towards your baby sleeping through the night in their own cot, the settling in stages method may be for you. Chcke out the video below where I explain it fully.

Stage 1

On the first day, settle your baby to sleep in your arms, but do not feed them to sleep. It is important that your baby is sleeping at the correct times for their age or stage of development as laid out in my routine. Although the aim is to get them to steel themselves to sleep in their cot and sleep for the majority of the night, the first stage is to get the “when” right before the “where”.

Stage 2

Once your baby is happily sleeping at the correct times for naps and settling for sleep at bed time in your arms, the next stage is to settle them next to you. By all means, put your arms around them, your face close to them, but they need to fall asleep without feint fed and sleeping on their back.

Stage 3

After a couple of days where your baby has fallen asleep next to you with your arms around them, move on to settling them to sleep next to you with just your hand on them.

Stage 4

During the next stage, your baby can be settled to sleep in their cot with your hand on them. This is made much easier if you have a co-sleeper cot, or a bed next to their full sized cot.

Stage 5

Once baby is settling well for a few days with your hand on them, move to only holding their hands, rather than touching any other parts of their bodes as you settle them to sleep.

Stage 6

Finally, once they are happy to settle wile just holding your hand, you can move on to settling them by simply speaking gently to them before leaving the room.

This method is far more drawn out than other methods such as controlled crying, but is a gentle way to help your baby learn how to settle themselves without getting too distressed.

9. Dream Feed – Bottle Of Expressed Milk

A good way of making sure that during your baby’s longest stretch of sleep is at night to that you can sleep to, is to introduce in the Dream Feed. This is where you very gently wake your baby and encourage them to feed just before you go to bed tonight, usually around 10 or 11 p.m.

As I discussed in my ways to help your baby sleep more post. To really maximise the amount of breastmilk of your baby takes at this time you can top up with the bottle of expressed milk. After the babies will take a few extra millilitres of milk from a bottle compared to feeding at the breast when they are drowsy. Offering a top of of expressed milk at this time can be an excellent way to make sure that they are as full as possible so that you can both rest.

Know It Doesn’t Last Forever

Just know that although you tired now and the nights are long, the years are short. This period in your babies life will fly by. Trust me. Although you may not be able to imagine a time where you don’t like a total zombie now, there will come a time where breastfeeding at night will be but a distant memory.

It is important to remember to manage your expectations when it comes to your baby’s sleep. There will always be things that throw everything out of whack; teething, illness, holidays disrupting routine. Just remember to take a breath, go back to the steps and things will settle down.

In the mean time, when you are woken up, try making the most lovely time to come your baby and see it as treasured time rather than a chore as best you can. I have always enjoyed a good Netflix binge check out my favourite TV shows to binge what are breastfeeding here.

So those are my top tips to help your breastfed baby sleep as much as they can manage at night. Obviously especially in the early days, night feeds are a necessary evil, but by following these tips you can move towards a time where your baby does most of their sleeping at night than in the day, so that you can get some sleep too.

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